Sometimes it's easy to forget that being green also means being "blue". Over 75% of the planet is water - and whether we see it every day, make a living from it, or just admire the views from a distance, healthy oceans are integral to our survival.
So, it was exciting that my first interview as Keep It Green's new host was with Lou Cafiero of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries. Our oceans are home to a vast array of diverse species, all playing vital roles in our environment. Marine sanctuaries play a large part in protecting that abundance of life.
And there's a lot of work to do. Until I talked with Lou, I had no idea that whales face some very unique dangers - one of which is getting hit by huge shipping vessels. These ships move extremely fast, and if a whale is busy feeding or otherwise distracted, it can get hit and seriously injured or killed.
How to prevent this? Lou shared a hopeful success story about research on whales' migratory routes on the Eastern seaboard - which crossed with major shipping lanes out of Boston. With solid facts in hand, environmentalists were able to work with shippers to change the shipping lanes, so that they would not interfere with the whales' own "highways".
The migration and feeding habits of whales may seem like a distant world that has no impact on our own lives. But, our lives do intersect with ocean life every day, whether we live at the beach or we're landlocked.
Pollution and unsustainable fishing jeopardize marine life. We can do our part to prevent these dangers by taking a few simple steps:
• Remember that pretty much everything that falls on the ground (or goes down a drain) winds up in our waterways. Start using non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners for your car, your household and your laundry. These cleaners do not use harsh, toxic chemicals - and they work just as well as "traditional" cleaners. Make your own or purchase products from companies such as Seventh Generation or Ecover.
• No more plastic bags! Aside from winding up in our landfills, these bags also go out to sea, where marine life die from ingesting them. Two tips for going shopping: 1) If you can carry it with two hands, you don't need a bag at all, 2) Bring your own reusable bags. All major grocery stores sell them, including the convenient Chico-bag (you can fold it up and keep it in your purse - I've got about eight of them). Put them where you'll remember them - by your door, in your purse, in your car.
• If you eat fish or seafood, consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sustainable Seafood Guide. It recommends which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood. The guide can be viewed online by region, or downloaded as a wallet-sized reference card.
By taking a few mindful steps, we can all play a part in protecting and nurturing the abundance of plant and animal life in our oceans.